You did everything by the book: You put together a thorough business plan, you followed it, and whatever success you’re now enjoying proves it was a solid plan. That doesn’t mean the business plan that served you well as a startup business is what it should be now that it’s helped you realize the first part of your dream. To get to the heart of that passionate vision, your now operational business plan might need some fine tuning.
Recheck your tangible needs
Now that your business plan has gotten your startup off and running, and your financials are looking good, your needs have grown beyond business infancy. So set some new targets and revise your business plan to aim right at them. You’re not beholden to the original roadmap. Like your business, it’s organic, mutable and should reflect where you are today. Even such a brilliant document as the U.S. Constitution has been regularly amended many times to reflect the needs of a growing, increasingly complex country.
One simple example: Whatever inventory you had to buy in the early days now looks, and is, strikingly smaller than today. Take a hard look and decide what you need, what you could have done without, and put your decisions to use.
Another: Your cash flow now is entirely different, for the better, than at the start. But it’s no reason to let up on your initial lean-and-mean model. Look at your current cash flow and identify ways to redistribute your cash to keep things on the same upward path. Buy less, lease more? Are there now new and better refinancing options? You may find that some degree of financial restructuring will better serve your current business status.
And don’t be shy about asking for objective, professional advice.
Review product and marketing strategies
As with much else in your original business plan, your product and marketing ideas can probably benefit from a revision. Fix a gimlet eye on today’s market, and adjust accordingly. What are the trends in your industry? What are the new and emerging customer buying patterns? What do your customers or clients have to say about how you might serve them even better?
Try out new products or services with a series of intensifying market tests. Experiment with new ideas on your family or friends before putting them out on the big stage. Learning from a few controlled trials is safer and cheaper than going right out and putting an untested experiment on the betting line.
Donna Miller, owner and founder of Gourmet Station, an online foodservice company in Atlanta, stayed flexible and ready and made it pay. Though she launched her business in the middle of the year, by Christmas Miller already had diversified her product line by adding gift cards. This high-margin addition quickly boosted sales, and Miller decided right then to make them a more important part of her offerings – even though her original business plan never included them.
Remember that advertising is a serious consideration, but comes in a wide variety of forms, not all of which require a big cash outlay. Grassroots marketing techniques demand a lot less money, allow you to recoup your outlay faster, and in some cases can be just as effective as mass-markets approaches. Ask others in the business community about ideas that worked – or didn’t. Comb the internet for creative approaches and adapt them to fit your business. Hold some free-flowing brainstorming sessions with staff or trusted advisors and come up with some innovative options.
Re-examine your operations
Are your current arrangements with vendors keeping up your business performance? You don’t want them just prepared for today, but ready to keep up with your growth as it comes. If you’re a service business, revisit staffing plans to ensure that you have enough knowledgeable or skilled personnel to handle current customers and those to come.
Your management structure could use similar tweaking.
“When you’re developing a plan, you’re identifying who is key to keeping it running and what their roles are,” says Troy Janisch, marketing director at BizFilings, an online provider of incorporation and related services in Madison, Wis. “Over time, key people might not be providing the things they were supposed to.”
As your business expands, you, as the visionary, must find a way to effectively hand over some of the daily tasks in order to keep your passion hot and your focus on bigger things to come.
Our Bottom Line
Continued success requires flexibility, so don’t be too closely wed to your original business plan if you want it to serve new growth. Take a fresh, open-minded look at how it got you here, and goose it as necessary to serve your current needs and market conditions. Some good starting points: cash flow and tangible assets, products and marketing, operations and management.
Kaitlyn Buss is a freelance writer for StartupNation.